Demonstrators gather around Taft High after a hazing incident on February 27. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times / October 2, 2009)
By Eric Sondheimer | LA Times
October 3, 2009 - The Los Angeles Unified School District athletics office distributed an e-mail Friday to its coaches, instructing them to counsel their athletes about hazing and warning that they could be held responsible for "negative consequences."
There have been two hazing incidents involving City Section football teams this season. On Aug. 27, four Granada Hills varsity players allegedly "manhandled and roughed up" a teammate in the locker room, according to Brian Bauer, the school's executive director. Pants were removed. Police and children's services officials were notified. No charges were filed, but three students were expelled and a fourth suspended.
Also in late August, five freshmen players from Huntington Park High allegedly punched another player, according to Coach Leroy Wilson. Each received a three-day suspension from school and lost their athletic privileges for one year. These incidents come in the wake of another hazing incident last school year in which Woodland Hills Taft volleyball players were disciplined and school staff were briefly reassigned.
Today's memo stated, "Hazing in all forms is not to be taken lightly. Recent history has shown that hazing can constitute a criminal act. In some cases, hazing may also include other acts, such as physical assault or battery, sexual assault or battery, or sexual harassment, which could lead to criminal consequences and student discipline.
"As a coach, it is your responsibility to know if hazing is present within your team. Please be aware that if you are found to have condoned the action, or state that you were unaware even though you are responsible for supervision, you can be held responsible for any negative consequences.
"If you have not already done so, we are asking that you take the time to have a discussion with your athletes on this subject. Do not turn your head when you know or have suspicions that acts of hazing are taking place. In most cases, hazing involves some type of initiation of the freshmen by the older students. Please be aware that as a coach, you must report any incidents of hazing or suspected hazing to the appropriate school administrator.
"Lastly, do not put yourself in a position to decide whether the action is appropriate or not; your responsibility is that of zero tolerance."
Barbara Fiege, the City Section commissioner, said the directive was her suggestion.
"Any time we're made aware of anything in regard to hazing, we feel the need to remind schools," she said.